People who live in glass houses…

…are very, very lucky.

Since Spring is finally showing itself this year, I though I’d share a weather-related daydream of my own. I long for a conservatory. Here in the US, we have “sun rooms”, which generally means something along the lines of this:

Image courtesy of greatadditions.com

These can be very nice, but I love the idea of a more old-school feel in a glassed in room. A “conservatory”, which is the original British term for  a sun room, looks like this:

Image courtesy of townandcountryus.com

The most famous conservatory ever created was by Sir Joseph Paxton in the United Kingdom. This is him:

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Sir Joseph had started as a mere gardner at a stately home in the English countryside. He played around with glass and iron to build small structures to grow and heal ailing plants on the estate. Glass and iron were not considered serious building materials in his day, but his little buildings worked and word spread to other estates. Here are some of his original structures today:

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

That’s right! Today, we call his building a “greenhouse”. Sir Joseph then took his knowledge and entered a national architecture competition to build the grand hall of the 1851 Great Exhibition. Other competing architects scoffed at his non-existent credentials and his concept. A building out of glass?! Lunacy! This was his winning design:

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Nicknamed “The Crystal Place”,  this conservatory sat in Hyde Park, London. It was an enormous breakthrough in architecture. (Such a breakthrough, today, would be something along the lines of building an entire skyscraper out of plastic.) The building stood 1,848 feet long and 135 feet high, enclosing live, fully grown elm trees that had already been living in Hyde Park. The building’s interior was 772, 784 square feet on the just on the ground floor. Here’s a portrait of the inside, with Queen Victoria presiding over the opening ceremonies:

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Here’s another view, which shows the 27 foot tall Crystal Fountain:

Image courtesy of artesmagazine.com

6 million people visited the 1851 Great Exhibition. (That number was equal to 1/3 of the UK’s population at the time.) People came to see the amazing building and all of the wonderful exhibits of technology inside. The biggest, most popular attraction inside? The very first installation of public restrooms. There were massive lines just to see the restrooms. No one had ever considered such a thing before! Imagine.

After the exhibition was over, Victorians began to find ways of bringing the new technology to their own homes. Umm…I mean the conservatories, not the restrooms. Conservatories were a much more pressing need in a fashionable home. Can you blame them?

Image courtesy of townandcountryus.com

Dreamy. I know having my own conservatory is really a dream because I’d still need the perfect garden to gaze out of my conservatory upon, but I can still dream. (Did you read about my other daydream habit?) If I had one of these, I’d spend every weekend morning it, doing things like enjoying the sunshine, eating a lazy breakfast, reading a good book, listening to the sounds coming from the garden.

Then, of course, there is the dilemma of furnishings. Do you make it an airy dining room?

Image courtesy of waterfordconservatories.com

Or do you make it a lovely sitting room?

Image courtesy of townandcountryus.com

Ooh! How about a nearby pool, for early morning dips and late night floating under the stars? Yes, please!

Image courtesy of townandcountryus.com

You could even use the conservatory in a totally different way, like making it your kitchen.

Image courtesy of townandcountryus.com

Maybe you only need a small conservatory off the back of your house.

Image courtesy of theroyalenglishcompany.com

Maybe you don’t want your conservatory attached to the house at all.

Image courtesy of townandcountryus.com

Such decisions! How would use a conservatory? What kind of lazy weekend plans would you move to a new glass room? Have a great weekend!

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Posted on April 15, 2011, in Architecture, Design Vocabulary. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thanks for the Friday daydreaming. I especially like the glass room with the fireplace. It’s cozy and yet like camping out under the stars. Very spoiling. I’ll let know if ever I add one to my place.

  2. Wow, I was blown away seeing all those beautiful glass rooms! I want one on the back of my house. We would use it all the time. I would put a big Christmas tree in it every year!

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